Wits students clash with police and guards as protest continues
Entrances to the Wits University campus were blocked and lectures were disrupted.
Students from the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) march through the streets of Braamfontein, in Johannesburg, on 2 March 2023 during a protest. Photo: MARCO LONGARI / AFP
The protest by Wits University students continued for the second day on Thursday, with some students clashing with police officers and security guards.
The protest is over some students not being able to register for the 2023 academic year and not getting places in the university’s residences.
Wits students cause chaos
On Tuesday morning, the institution’s main entrance on Empire Road was blocked. JMPD officers had to be called to disperse the protesting students.
The students, however, moved onto the campus and gathered outside the university’s Great Hall building. Other students disrupted lectures and forced non-protesting students to leave the buildings.
Security guards and police officers prevented the students from entering the Great Hall.
The commotion outside the Wits campus even led to businesses closing shop.
A restaurant owner in Braamfontein even used fire extinguishers to to prevent students from entering his business. They reportedly demanded that he close his restaurant.
Watch: Wits students protest
In a statement released in the early hours of Thursday morning, the Wits Student Representative Council (SRC) said there was a “mass exclusion of students” at the university.
Among the SRC’s demands were:
- For NSFAS allowance to be increased to R2 000;
- The withdrawal of the R45 000 NSFAS accommodation cap and the reversal of the centralised process for accommodation accreditation processes;
- The scrapping of private accommodation top-ups;
- The removal of Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande and Deputy Minister Buti Manamela;
- The extension of the first academic block by one week.
On Wednesday, the university said its academic programme was completed despite the challenges.
It also said it would bring in external protection officers to ensure safety at entrance and exit points and help prevent classes being disrupted.
University says some students to be charged
It said complaints of intimidation and damage to property are being investigated.
“[Campus Protection Services] is also reviewing video footage and other evidence which will be used to charge and/or suspend perpetrators, in line with the university’s rules, policies and procedures,” it said.
It added that the Dean of Student Affairs was trying talking to student leaders to “try to address some of the demands”.
“However, a number of the issues raised are systemic issues which need to be addressed at the national level. These will be channelled to the appropriate leaders via Universities South Africa and other fora.”